Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. Chief Marketing Officer

Have you ever had the perfect dinner at your favorite restaurant and the waiter brings you the dessert cart?

The temptation is real as you stare at those decadent creations but you know you can’t finish one. All you need is a bite to make you happy.

That one bite is very similar to the feeling you’ll get from hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. You’ll enjoy the flavor, without the burden of a full portion.

In this post, we’ll discuss what you need to know about a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. a Chief Marketing Officer. Keep reading our in-depth guide below.

What Is a Chief Marketing Officer?

Whether you are starting a business or getting ready to invest heavily in sales or marketing, you could benefit from having a Chief Marketing Officer. If that investment or startup includes starting a major commercial website, an advertising campaign, or an SEO-driven content marketing initiative a Chief Marketing Officer would be an invaluable asset.

Chief Marketing Officers can go by a variety of titles like Marketing Director, Global Marketing Officer, or Chief Commercial Officer. Regardless of the title, the duties remain the same. The CMO is responsible for all things marketing within an organization.

A good Chief Marketing Officer job description will include oversight in marketing communications, brand management, public relations, advertising, market research, distribution channel management, product pricing, product marketing, and customer satisfaction.

As a member of the C-level management team, the Chief Marketing Officer in most cases will report to the Chief Executive Officer. If your business doesn’t include a C-level management team that won’t preclude you from bringing in a CMO. You probably have the structure in place already without the C-level titles attached that a CMO can effectively operate within.

The Challenges Facing a Chief Marketing Officer

The Chief Marketing Officer is much more than a salesperson. They must possess a diverse skill set to help them manage the brand from concept to customer satisfaction. CMOs will coordinate efforts between research and development, operations, manufacturing, and sales.

They will create a marketing strategy for profitable growth that increases brand recognition while mitigating risk and reducing and controlling costs that might easily spiral out of control.

Research and Development

Any research and development efforts will be closely monitored by the Chief Marketing Officer. New products must be forecast into the sales process, both financially and from a marketing perspective.

They must be developed to dovetail into the CMO’s vision for the future. Otherwise, they will create contrasting perspectives to the overall brand.

Online Sales and Website Development

Your Chief Marketing Officer will work closely with your Chief Information Officer to develop a website that captures the CMO’s vision of the company brand.

The CMO will also be involved in any online sales platform you may need or use to ensure that customer satisfaction is achieved throughout the online sales process. This will include capturing critical data from the online sales and marketing process to help improve and grow the brand.


If manufacturing is part of your business model, your CMO will work closely with your Chief Production Officer or manager responsible for overseeing the production and manufacturing processes.

Their communication is critical to effectively manage the sales process, especially when running promotional campaigns. Your CMO will strike a balance between production and sales that doesn’t overwhelm one while shorting the other.

In-Person Sales Channels

Brick and mortar sales channels present their own challenges for a Chief Marketing Officer. Brand management is critical across multiple retail outlets.

Your CMO will develop advertising campaigns to include signage and other advertising through online, television, or radio channels. Overall store decor and even employee uniforms or dress code fall under their oversight to ensure the brand’s vision is realized.


They will also coordinate the distribution effort between manufacturing and operations to ensure timely delivery of your product. While your Chief Marketing Officer doesn’t get involved in shipping arrangements directly, they will need to forecast effectively the needs to support both the regular and promotional sales efforts.

Navigating the Marketplace

Good Chief Marketing Officers are able to react quickly to changes in the marketplace, whether they be environmental in nature, new competition, or the creation of new vertical markets. Often they will predict what will happen before it does, which could give you an edge over your competition.

Their ability to reshape your company’s strategy and execution plans in a fast-paced environment can be the deciding factor to successfully navigating market fluctuations.

Analytical Ability

Chief Marketing Officers will constantly analyze sales and marketing data looking for trends both positive and negative. They will take critical customer demographics, product sales, and sales channel effectiveness to help plan for the future.

The results will then be communicated back to the CEO for review and together they will plot the future efforts of your company, sometimes a year or more in advance. At this point, the cycle starts over again with R&D, manufacturing, operations, distribution, and sales planning.

This takes a deft hand to unite these departments which can often seem at odds with one another. Your CMO will need to be an expert communicator and motivator, and in many ways a politician because they must bring together these teams to pull in the same direction.

What Is a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer is essentially what the name says it is. They have the ability to meet all of the above challenges, yet they will only perform a fraction of them. Basically, they are brought on in a part-time or temporary capacity, but that will depend on you and what your business needs and can support.

This fraction might come in the form of time. You can hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer to work 10, 15, or 20 hours per week during which time they will work the entire marketing plan from R&D to customer satisfaction. They will then spend the other fractions of their time with other companies.

Most Fractional Chief Marketing Officer arrangements are set at a six-month minimum, regardless of the model. This is essential because most efforts take time to come to fruition.

What Will a Fractional Chief Operating Officer Do?

When you first begin discussions with a candidate, you should have an idea of what you want them to do for you. Once hired they will focus on these predetermined tasks, but they will also offer their expert opinions on a variety of subjects within your organization.

They will assess your operation and make recommendations as to what else they could or should be doing. This doesn’t mean you can’t pick and choose which recommendations to move ahead with. It simply gives you an idea of what they believe will be helpful.

Remember also that they are marketing their services and any good marketer will make a compelling argument. They should always present these recommendations with a return on investment.

Implement Entry Into a New Vertical Market

You might hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer to oversee specific challenges, like planning entry into a new vertical market. This FCMO will work with your management group to assess the individual departmental challenges your company will face.

These challenges will include internal production and sales issues, as well as specific issues you will face unique to the new vertical market. They will then create a plan that unites the team and drives the company forward to successful implementation. Upon completion, the FCMO will move on to other clients.

Rebranding Your Company

If you are planning to rebrand your company then hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer can help. They will work closely with the CEO or company strategist to capture a new vision and create a new brand.

This effort will tie together all aspects of your marketing and sales to fit within the brand concept. Your FCMO will work with research and development to ensure they work with future products to fit the brand. They will also forecast and create advertising campaigns to present the new brand concept to your customers.

Aggressive Sales Campaigns

You might feel like you are missing out on reaching the entire market for your product and you wouldn’t be the first company to realize this. Aggressive sales campaigns can be scary because, by their very name, aggression can be risky.

An FCMO will review your intended results and create a measured approach designed to help minimize your risk while staying aggressive. This might include a unique multi-media advertising approach or bundling products and services.

Regardless of the campaign, they have the experience and knowledge to implement it effectively and keep the risks and costs manageable.

Company Expansion

Many businesses have a great product, a great manufacturing program, and a great sales team, yet need a little help taking the company to the next level. Maybe you’re considering taking your product from a regional market space to national market space, or maybe national to global.

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer can help you make this jump in a deliberate way. They will assess the new market’s growth potential, forecast the cost to expand from a distribution standpoint, and provide feedback to the manufacturing department to help them forecast for the new demand. They will also develop a sales and marketing plan to address the new market space.

Unify Your Sales Team

Sometimes a company’s growth occurs organically and they find themselves operating at levels they hadn’t originally planned on. You might end up with a national sales force that might be producing just fine, but with distinctly different processes.

This can result in uneven production and fulfillment issues which ultimately cost you money and customer satisfaction, limiting your future growth potential.

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer can help implement a national strategy that keeps everyone marching to the proverbial beat of the same drum. An FCMO will create national proposals that reinforce the company’s brand and product. They can also implement new software to assist in both the prospecting process and the closing of new sales to streamlining your distribution efforts.

New Product Lines

If your company has developed a new line of product or products you could benefit from hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. This is especially important if your new product is outside your original scope of products offered, and even more so if your new product has the potential to revolutionize the way people do things.

Your FCMO will need to work closely with all areas of your company to ensure consistency with your brand and your new product. Marketing and sales presentations must be developed to highlight your new capability.

Advertising must be deliberate and targeted to reach your customer base and make them aware of your new product. Your manufacturing team must be ready to handle the forecasted increase in sales and your distribution and fulfillment channels have to be prepared as well.

Benefits of Hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. a Chief Marketing Officer

As the Owner, President, or Chief Operating Officer of a company, your time is always precious. You are responsible for all aspects of your company’s success.

If you’ve created a solid organization with capable managers at every level, then perhaps you can manage to perform the duties of a CMO while delegating other duties.

However, the question always comes down to competence, and marketing is a unique animal in the business jungle. If you don’t have the experience to handle the myriad of duties, you are better off hiring either a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer or a full-time Chief Marketing Officer.

1. Not Ready for a Full-Time Marketing Professional

One reason you should consider hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. a Chief Marketing Officer might be because you are a small to medium-sized business and simply don’t have the budget to support a full-time CMO. In fact, this is the most common reason to bring one in.

An FCMO affords you access to C-level leadership without the cost of hiring a full-time CMO. In most cases, this ultimately ends up with you hiring a CMO full-time because the initial effort has grown your business enough to support one.

2. You Lack a Consistent Marketing Message

Your business may be functioning okay but there is no consistent message being presented to customers. This could be a lack of marketing material. That leads to individual sales representatives producing their own flyers, proposals, and more.

Chief Marketing Officers and Fractional Chief Marketing Officers can create a consistent brand message. They do so through marketing materials, proposals, and presentations. They can also create training programs to help the sales team speak with one voice.

If this is only one of a few skills you are looking to find, an FCMO can handle it at a lower cost than a full-time CMO.

3. You Need an Effective Sales Technique

For decades, salespeople have been negatively stereotyped as particular types of people. They’ve been called everything from sharks to snake oil salespeople. There’s no question that some industries have earned their reputations.

Car salespeople have had a notorious reputation for the longest time. Car salespeople have a stigma that many dealerships are looking to remove. It’s because they realize the negative connotation doesn’t sit well with consumers anymore. It comes down to trust. No one likes walking away from a purchase feeling they didn’t get a fair deal.

Companies today realize this and are careful to craft a sales approach that doesn’t offend consumers. If your company doesn’t have a sales process that consumers can trust, a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer can craft one for you.

This is true whether you need a consultative approach, a formula-driven bidding process, one based on addressing needs, or some other method that your industry embraces. An FCMO can create one that works for you and your customers just as well as a CMO, but for a lower cost.

4. You Don’t Have Marketing Savvy

Marketing savvy in this case speaks to having the proper knowledge to make good marketing decisions. Too often companies will create a website because someone said they needed one.

Or they might jump on the pay-per-click bandwagon because that’s what SEO experts tell you is another hot way to market your business. Sometimes they invest in branded giveaways like shirts or coffee mugs to give away at conventions or sponsored events.

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer and a Chief Marketing Officer possess the skills and knowledge to identify where your marketing dollars can be best spent. They do this by evaluating specific metrics within your industry and your company in particular.

They then develop a strategy to spend your marketing dollars wisely, getting you a positive return on your investment. Everything your FCMO does will be to drive revenue and growth. Most importantly, they will not succumb to frivolous spending for the sake of spending.

Chief Marketing Officers and Fractional Chief Marketing Officers both must get results to justify their salaries. However, a CMO is held to a slightly different standard for delivering results than an FCMO. A CMO is a permanent, full-time employee with a high salary, excellent benefits, a robust commission structure, and even profit-sharing in some cases.

These are all great perks for your CMO when they succeed. But what happens when their intended results fall short? They are far more likely to try riskier endeavors to keep themselves employed.

An FCMO has a contract with a term that expires, with or without results. They are far more likely to ride out their plan and show a marginal gain, rather than spend more of your money on riskier projects. Spending frivolously doesn’t have any upside for them.

A savvy FCMO knows that even marginal gains can create a return on investment and they can build off that for future contracts. These will come as part of a proposal to extend their services, complete with detailed ROIs on any new initiatives.

5. You’re Late to the Marketing Party

What if your company is well-established in the industry and has been operating for years or even decades, but you’ve never had a marketing manager? You likely will benefit from hiring one.

Times change, now more so than ever. Technology, social media, and global markets can catch companies like this unprepared. Have you suddenly seen your sales or market share dropping and can’t understand why?

Hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs a Chief Marketing Officer can address this concern effectively without the full-time investment. They will develop a strategy to bring your marketing program into the modern business environment.

They can take advantage of technology and other mediums like social media to build brand awareness and make you more competitive.

6. You’re In-Between Chief Marketing Officers

You might be a well-established company that has employed a full-time CMO for years but the position has recently become vacant. Hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. a Chief Marketing Officer in a rush is a bad idea.

It can be detrimental to the long-term success of the position and your company to hire too quickly. An FCMO can help bridge the gap while you take the necessary time to search for a permanent replacement.

7. Audit Your Existing Marketing Program

If you’ve been working with the same marketing program for years, you could benefit from hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. a Chief Marketing Officer. Having them conduct an audit of your program is smart. You might have a marketing manager already and simply want to give them support, or you might be considering adding one.

Regardless, they will come in with a non-biased perspective and assess what you are doing. This can be very helpful to companies whose growth remains static within their industry.

An FCMO will review all aspects of your marketing and make a list of recommendations. In many cases, they will help you implement new strategies as part of an ongoing consulting agreement. You won’t find a CMO for a temporary assignment like this.

How Do I Find a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

Fractional Chief Marketing Officers are usually highly qualified, experienced marketing executives. They aren’t consultants, per se, yet they can be brought on in a consultative manner. Typically though they are contracted for a minimum of six months up to two years, sometimes with extensions built into the contract.

Marketing is a fast-paced, ever-changing field and might be the single most important element to a successful business. You could have the best product on the market, but if you aren’t marketing it properly you may never succeed. Good marketing can take a good business and make it into a great business, so don’t undervalue it.

Finding the right Fractional Chief Marketing Officer is critical to the continued growth of your business. A strong leader in the marketing department is challenging, especially in a small to medium-sized business. There are some important steps to take when searching for a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer to ensure you make the right decision.

1. Conduct Your Own Internal Assessment

You should begin with an assessment of your marketing operation. This can be done by the CEO or another operational manager, or you can bring in a business consultant. Either way, you need someone to review your processes with a critical and unbiased eye.

You’ll be looking at a number of key measurables first. How much are you spending on marketing? Where are you spending that money? What, if any, is your return on investment?

Marketing is a costly endeavor and the money can disappear quickly. Knowing how, where, and why are important measurables that will help you plan for the future.

Once you get through the financial part you need to look at what kind of demographic information you’ve collected on your customer base. Who is buying your product? Who isn’t? Are they male or female? How old are they?

These are important insights you should be collecting. If you haven’t been collecting them by now then you most certainly need to create a system moving forward. This information can help you spend wisely.

After a demographic review, you want to drill down a little more. You should be looking at advertising campaigns you’ve run in the past. You want to look at the materials and methods you used during these campaigns.

You’ll also want to look at the company or companies you worked with to create these marketing materials. It doesn’t matter whether they be print, radio, television, social media, or something else.

Also very important is a review of your company’s operating philosophy and culture. Be sure you can easily describe these things.

A casual workplace with break rooms that feature video games, massaging recliners, and a well-stocked and free snack bar is much different than a business-professional environment that is fast-paced and bottom-line focused. These will be important considerations during your search because you’ll want to find an FCMO who blends well with your culture.

2. Set Goals for the Future of Your Marketing Program

Once you’ve completed your internal assessment, you should have a clear picture of what, if anything, is working. You’re probably starting to get an idea of where you’d like to improve too. Now it’s time to set some goals.

Your goals should run the gamut from easily achieved to wildly optimistic. Don’t sell anything short because good marketing can make almost anything a reality. Assembling a variety of short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals is the best approach.

A good short-term goal might be to revamp your company’s proposal package or create some new, modern advertising flyers. You might also consider creating several advertising campaigns targeting specific demographics you know to be consumers.

Mid-term goals might include an expansion into a new vertical market you know has a need you can fill, but you haven’t yet attempted to reach. This could also be true from a regional expansion perspective. Entering new, untapped markets outside your area of influence can prove profitable.

Long-term goals might include a rebranding of your company or product line. As previously stated, times change. Your product may still be useful, but if you are targeting a stale market you won’t realize your full potential.

Regardless of your goals, keep in mind they aren’t something you can necessarily complete on your own. That’s the point of hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer.

3. Search for Qualities That Will Help

At this point you should have a clear understanding of what you’ve done right, what went wrong, and perhaps even why. You also have an eye toward the future of your company and its marketing program. Now it’s time to start looking.

All your candidates will have the qualities you would want in a Chief Marketing Officer. That’s why they do what they do on a fractional basis. However, you should look for those with experience in what is important to you.

Start with your industry. Anyone with experience in your industry will shorten their learning curve. This is important when it comes to understanding how to market your company.

If one of your goals is to expand into a new vertical market you’ll want to find candidates with this experience. They will have met similar challenges and be better equipped for such an endeavor.

Perhaps one of your goals is to revamp your sales process from the ground up. Maybe you wish to install new techniques, equipment, and technology. Someone with a record of success with this type of work will be more beneficial than a candidate without this experience.

Maybe you want to get into rebranding your company. Someone with a track record in creating brand identity and awareness will work better than someone without it.

One important quality you should be looking for is will their personality fits with your company’s culture. As previously stated, the casual work environment is different than the suit and tie business world. Your Fractional Chief Marketing Officer will need to fit in with whatever your culture might be.

4. Have Them Submit a Statement of Work

This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out proposal. A good Fractional Chief Marketing Officer will submit an overview of their qualifications. They should relate to what your stated needs are. The more specific you are upfront, the easier it will be for them to give you a comprehensive Statement of Work.

As part of their Statement of Work, they should include measurable actionable items. These should also include some rough pricing information at the least. They should know what these things will cost you. Your return on this investment should also be explained.

Some of these actionable items are easier to quote than others. A good FCMO will be very detailed when presenting a proposal to you. They should also come with timeframes for completion.

5. Negotiate a Contract

You’ve found the right marketing professional, congratulations. Now it’s time to sign a contract.

Everyone has a different idea of how much they are worth. As a rule, you should check the current salaries for Chief Marketing Officers in your industry. Salaries can vary by region as well, so be conscious of this fact. If your company is in New York City, you can expect a higher salary than say for Boise, Idaho.

If you are contracting for a certain number of hours per week, you should take the annual salary and divide it by the number of weeks. From there you then divide it again by the number of hours you’ll need them. This is a fair number for most people and a good place to start, but, they will be submitting their price to you.

You always have the option to turn them down. Negotiating a different price isn’t considered bad form either, but not everyone will. If they are an experienced and desirable Chief Marketing Officer, they might be able to pick and choose their clients. This will seriously limit your ability to negotiate.

That said, if they have the requisite skillset you need, then you should feel good about hiring them. If they fit with your culture, and their Statement of Work is one that offers a good return on investment, you should feel good about signing a contract.

An integral part of the contract negotiation should center around time. Not only the hours per week you will need them but the length of time of your contract. Some will be willing to go with monthly contracts, but most are looking for at least a six-month agreement.

They will need time to implement their plans and changing a marketing program isn’t like turning your car around. It’s more like changing the direction of a cruise liner in a tight port. It must be done carefully and without rushing.

Another element of time to consider is what will happen at the end of the contract term. Will your Fractional Chief Marketing Officer be available to stay on? Will an extension be month to month or a simple six-month renewal? Will there be an option to hire them permanently?

Be prepared for the worst here, because there’s a real possibility they will want to move on. They are highly skilled individuals with a unique mindset to create solutions. Once things are running smoothly they may have a natural desire to find their next challenge. They may want to stay on, too, but it’s always better to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

And the best thing you can do is to put a consulting clause in the original contract that gives you an easy way to invite them back for special projects. At least this way you have someone who helped design, build, and implement your marketing program only a phone call away.

What if I Already Have a Marketing Agency?

There’s nothing wrong with having a relationship with a marketing agency while looking to hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. In some cases, having a relationship might be beneficial. Your FCMO will likely need some marketing material to be produced, and maybe in several different mediums, so the agency you have could be the answer.

Many marketing agencies need a contract that can prove burdensome, especially if you consider taking on an FCMO at the same time. Often the contracts come with a retainer fee built-in and billed monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. This retainer fee works like a draw on services provided.

If you have a $10,000 retainer fee you essentially must spend that money on marketing services with them. They will provide you with suggestions on how to spend it and will develop the material which you will have final control over.

Yet you won’t get the level of expertise you would from a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. A marketing agency will have subject area experts, but probably no single person at the agency will possess the C-level skillset of an FCMO.

You’ll have a cancellation clause with your marketing agency so you won’t want to cancel. If you are considering hiring an FCMO then you are probably not satisfied with your marketing agency on some level.

A good idea would be to plan on hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer shortly before your marketing agency agreement ends. You’ll give your new FCMO a chance to review their prior work, evaluate the services they offer, and decide which they would like to keep.

If your new FCMO is interested in keeping them on in some capacity, he can handle negotiating a new contract.

Is It Time to Hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

This answer is dependent on your particular circumstances. As previously detailed, an FCMO brings a unique skill set focused entirely on marketing. If you are a small company just starting out, hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer vs. a Chief Marketing Officer is the right choice. Hiring a full-time CMO is likely too expensive.

If you already have a steady revenue stream and are ready to invest in the future, an FCMO is an investment in that future with tremendous upside.

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